Buenos Aires is known as being a cultural mix of Europe and Latin America, a virtual ice cream swirl of the various flavors and tastes of the Latin and Western, traditional and modern. A diversity and blend that is evident in every aspect of life in this capital, and reflected in its wide range of neighborhoods, restaurants and people. It exists in the crux of the two lifestyles, creating an interesting intersection of all aspects of culture. A great way to explore this co-mingling of customs is through the Buenos Aires art scene. The art world provides a surprisingly developed and intriguing insight into where Argentina has been and where it is going.
With everything from large-scale museums with internationally renowned masterpieces to underground modern art installations, Art in Buenos Aires is alive and well. Unless the sole purpose of your visit to Buenos Aires is to check out the art, I don’t recommend trying to visit more than one museum or large gallery in a day. They are often big and they are always crammed with art of a wide array of styles and mediums and even visiting one can be overwhelming. So as not to burn yourself out, space out your viewings over a few days, it can be a nice way to escape the mid day sun and get a little peace and quiet amidst the bustling city.
If you only have time to visit one of Buenos Aires’ major museums, the Museo de Bellas Artes is not to be missed. In Recoleta along the Avenida Libertador, the fine arts museum is open Tuesday through Sunday and is always free. Downstairs they have their permanent collection with a fine selection from Degas’ dancing ballerinas to Pollock’s speckled chaos with everything in between and beyond Plenty to satisfy even the staunchest art critic. The museum also has thorough exhibits featuring more contemporary Latin American artists, check their website for information on current exhibits and special events.
The recently opened MALBA, Museo de Arte Latinoamericana de Buenos Aires, showcases more modern art from artists throughout Latin America. They have a diverse selection, with rotating exhibits. Their claim to fame is a singular Frida Kahlo piece, and while it is beautiful, there are more intriguing pieces in the museum. The museum has everything from a 100-foot long mural to photography to video installations, with pieces ranging from curious subtlety to in your face aggression. A four-story modern building, the MALBA is worth a visit, go on a Wednesday when the museum is free and open till 9 pm.
The curious location of the Borges Cultural Center, the top floor of the Gallerias Pacificas shopping mall on Florida, should not deter you from spending an afternoon trying to absorb the abundance of local art on display there. Stop at the Center to get info on current exhibits and showcases. Spaced out over four large galleries the Center features new and upcoming artists, and also hosts international touring exhibits. Exhibits change frequently so check back often. In the last two months I have attended a World Press Photo Exhibit, an artists boxing match, and most recently spent an hour perusing everything from sculptures made with twine to day glow paintings done directly on the wall. The Borges center will also have information about events and exhibits at other local galleries and venues.
The city is full of smaller scale galleries and museums, you just have to be patient and stroll the streets with a keen eye. San Telmo, especially along Calle Defensa, and Palermo are both home to alternative and growing art scenes. Keep your ears open to goings on, and pick up fliers you find in trendy restaurants and cafes. La Boca’s Caminito also has art galleries, though very touristy, and it is the place to come for tango art. Check here for more info on the city’s museums (in Spanish). Other good options include the Museo Xul Solar in Palermo, and the Centro Cultural Recoleta next to the Recoleta Cemetery.
Even if art is not really your scene, check out some exhibits to get a flavor for another aspect of Argentine culture. The museums and galleries are either inexpensive or free, and if nothing else art is always thought provoking and a good conversations starter.
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